Students have been asking me what I am doing to keep myself sane during these crazy times. Many of them have told me that they are too stressed out to meditate. When they try to sit and do a simple shamatha meditation, placing all awareness on a single point of focus (usually sensation of air passing through the nostrils), their minds just bombard them with concerns. Not surprising given the current times.
I have been establishing a lit bit of a different ritual. Once or twice a day I walk away from everything I ‘m doing and I sit for 10 to 20 minutes and I listen to some very specific music. I have created several playlists.
If I’m feeling that my mood is a bit down I listen to some seventies songs that can take me back to some really good times in my past. Works every time. Before I know it I’m sitting there with my eyes closed but my consciousness is totally absorbed in reliving some really great experiences. My whole attitude is better. I feel refreshed and ready to return to the present with all it’s challenges.
In the evening, after I’m done reading, I do the same thing but with a much different play list. I use very soothing instrumental tracks to put me in a completely relaxed state. Sometimes in the mornings I take ten to fifteen minutes and I listen to a playlist of some of my favorite inspirational tracks before I get busy with what I intend to accomplish that day.
Music is a very powerful force. It is important that we recognize that this power can go both ways. Have you ever had a song leave you in a bad mood? Most likely you have. Whether it was the wrong time and wrong place for that piece of music, or you really don’t like genre, or what have you, it just affected your mood negatively.
We can be very deliberate about tapping in to that energy rather than just being at the whim of whatever comes up next on whatever device I’m listening to. I believe there are a few tricks here. First, avoid falling in to the trap of just having the music playing while you are busy doing things and focusing on something else. Second, do your best to be alone in a quiet place, undisturbed. Turn your phone off. Third, be very specific about developing your playlist. Stay away from any negative or angry music. I know some people at the gym who listen to very angry, head pounding music when they work out. They say it helps them put more in to their workouts. I say they should study psychological anchoring and consider what they are feeding their subconscious minds.
One last thing, there is a caveat. If your music transports you back to your past, you could fall in to the trap of comparing that great time with the present. That could actually bum you out. So as your music fades and it is time to be in the present, remind yourself of how grateful you are to have lived those experiences and use that gratitude to help you in the present to make some more good memories. At the end of the day, the present is the only thing you really have.